After my daughter was born, I was determined that I was not going to become a hermit and live in tattered yoga pants. As a new mom, it was hard to get the courage and the confidence to take this tiny little human out into the world all by yourself. I started small by going to a nearby park and the grocery store, but I knew I needed more social interaction and bonding outings with my baby. Therefore, I ventured out in search of the best activities and programs available for infants. One will quickly discover that there are plenty of free and fun options beyond park and restaurant days. I may love my brunch, but I also love trying new things with my daughter. Hence, our top things to do in Cincinnati with a baby list was born.
I rely on Mothering Chaos to see what special activities are going on in the city. They have an amazing comprehensive calendar that lets you know what goes on day by day. Their comprehensive park guide is a great resource as well. Check out their monthly calendar of events: http://www.motheringchaos.com/calendar/
Whether you are a visitor or a local, Cincinnati has a lot to do for the littlest member of your family. Here is the long-awaited and self-proclaimed list of the Best of Cincinnati for Baby.
Baby Bee’s – At Kid’s First
This FREE 30-minute class is available for babies ages 6 weeks to 6 months. They offer a variety of days and times to try to accommodate most families. There are tons of new moms here trying to navigate their way through motherhood which proves to be a wonderful support group. Baby Bees is a great way to interact with your baby by incorporating sensory play and physical movement. The “baby” tumbling area was our favorite for tummy time activities.
The beauty of this class is that your baby will not be the only one hungry the minute you set them down. Nor will they be the only one to blow their diaper out halfway through the session. Others will be joining you on the sidelines without fail. The instructors are wonderful and clearly love working with babies. You do have to enroll your baby every week and some classes fill up quicker than others. Once baby become mobile they do move up to the next class which you will be a paid program if you choose to enroll. Check out their programs and sign up here.
Baby Splash Swim Lessons- At Kid’s First
There is another program offered at Kid’s first that is a parent favorite, Baby Splash. This is a FREE class offered for babies 8 weeks to 6 months old. One or both parents join baby in the pool as they get familiar and comfortable in the water. Yes, the baby back float is a thing and is absolutely terrifying, but after a few months, the babies become old pros at it. There are family changing areas complete with changing counters, area for your belongings, changing rooms, showers, and bathrooms. Pack n plays are available as well.
The instructors are well trained and make each class fun for baby and parent. When you sign up, you sign up for the entire four months. Therefore, choose a time that will work best for your family. Don’t be discouraged if the time slot you are looking for is filled up. Join the waitlist as openings happen more often then you may think. They do offer swim classes for 6 months and up for a cost. Check out their site here.
Baby Art Tours at the Cincinnati Art Museum
Hand’s down this is one of my favorite programs in Cincinnati for babies. This amazing hidden gem is FREE and is one of Sophie’s favorite things to do. I would not recommend bringing the baby to this until they are about 3 months old at the earliest. Reason being, baby needs to be forward facing in a carrier to get the most out of the tour. By having a baby at the level of the art, they get to experience it the same way we do. However, babies tend to not care about art history or who painted the masterpiece. That is why the amazing museum educators have crafted a unique tour each month to stimulate new ideas and showcase a different theme aimed at their littlest visitors.
Each tour ends at the Rosenthal Education Center where the babies get to make a special art project. Each project is baby friendly and you may even get to take it home! You must make reservations for the tours and they are only offered one day a month. The baby class is appropriate for children up to 24 months and then I would sign up for their Free REC reads program. Read more about Baby Art Tours.
Library Babies Story Time at the Public Library
I never truly appreciated our public library until I had a child. Cincinnati Public Library has quite an extensive list of programs and camps that they offer kids, with one of them being Baby Story Time. This is a FREE class for newborn babies to 18 months. Storytime at each library is different, but they all encompass singing songs, rhymes, and movement. At our local branch, we sing songs, play with balls, puppets and a parachute followed by free time for baby to crawl or toddle around. No sign up is needed for these weekly classes. Just go into the library and the librarian will take you where you need to be. This is a great way to meet local moms and maybe even a neighbor or two!
Visit Jungle Jim’s
What do you do with your baby in the middle of winter while the flu season is at its peak? Visit Jungle Jim’s of course! This tip came from a good friend of mine and she couldn’t have been more right on! Babies can’t get enough of the bizarre, obscure things around every corner at Jungle Jim’s. A singing soup can, a giant firetruck, who wouldn’t be amused.
If you haven’t checked out their toy store you really need too. It houses a collection of neat and unique toys that you might need immediately. Especially if you have grown tired of playing with the same toys over and over again. The other great thing about Jungle Jim’s is that you can have a beer or glass of wine while you shop! Baby is entertained, you get a glass of wine and your grocery shopping done. It sounds like a win-win in my books.
I have a love-hate relationship with the Red Balloon. I think it is a great indoor play space for kids and a good social gathering spot. Parents can sit back and let their little ones run, jump and play to their heart’s content. Red Balloon does have a baby nest, which is geared for infants and toddlers. The highlight of the Red Balloon for me was this is a great spot to meet other parents that have older children. While the Red Balloon does have things that baby can utilize being able to have conversations with other parents is vital. Therefore, while the baby is napping or fiddling with some of the baby-friendly toys they offer, you can have a conversation with your friend while her kids are running free!
There is a downside, this place can get uncomfortably jammed packed. I would not recommend coming here on a rainy, snowy or cold day. We actually avoided this place all together during the winter time aka cold and flu season. The admission to the play area is free for kids under 1 and for kids over 1 it is $8.25 a child. A little steep, so plan your visit accordingly to get the most bang for your buck. Red Balloon does have a nice cafe to grab lunch at and offers an eat and play combo. I would also recommend taking a look at their class schedule. Most classes include free play, so for a little extra, you get a class too.
Learning Through Play Cafe
Another play cafe and coffee shop to check out is in the Learning Through Play Cafe. I like the concept of this cafe better than the Red Balloon in that the play structure is geared for younger children. They also have a craft area that kids can color or create the special craft of the day. Tables and chairs are located around the play area so parents can enjoy that mocha and still keep eyes on their little ones. They have great specialty coffee drinks and they are open early!
The newest play cafe to hit the Cincinnati area is Lily Pad. This is the smallest of the play cafes in the area and I would recommend this for younger children as well. It does tend to get a little crowded fast, so plan accordingly. They have a wide array of unique and fun classes such as Beyond Ballet, Potty Painting, and Cooking Classes for Tots. They are currently closed on Monday. Learn more about Lily Pad here.
Story Time at the Blue Manatee
Located in the heart of Oakley is one of the cutest children’s bookstores you’ll ever step foot in. Be prepared, while the Manababies story time is free you will find it hard to leave the store without a book or two in hand. This fun and free program is geared for children under 1 and is full of songs, stories, and rhythms. They even offer a Manabebes class, which is a fun introduction to Spanish for the little ones. As your little one grows they advance on to the ManaTots story time. Storytime can get a little snug since the Blue Manatee relocated into a smaller building. Arrive early to get a good spot for you and your babe! Once story time ends, buy your books then head over to the Sleepy Bee for brunch!
When I told my family I wanted to take the baby to the aquarium at three months old, they thought I was insane and throwing my money down the drain. Oh on the contrary! Sophie loved the aquarium from day one. If you have little light up aquarium for their crib why wouldn’t they love the real thing! ? She was memorized with the water, the big sharks and the hundreds of fish. Each visit I notice that she engages more and more and now she doesn’t want to leave!
The key to taking a baby to the aquarium is timing. You can easily arrive to have your baby nap the entire time visit. Since the aquarium is on the Newport Levy there are lots of ways to pass the time while your little one is in dreamland. Grab a bite to eat, do a little shopping or sit back and relax while overlooking the Ohio River.
Once baby is up, head to the aquarium! I would recommend using a baby carrier and/or a stroller for this adventure. Elevators are available to make stroller use easier, however, they do not have automatic doors to get in and out of the aquarium. (Which is kinda a pain with a stroller.) They will search your diaper bag, but, you will not need an id with your pass since your photo is on it. They do have a nursing area for mothers which is a nice bonus because baby is notoriously hungry the minute you start an outing. I highly recommend getting the yearly pass. Baby will get in free until they are two, but for you, it is only roughly $16 more and then you can come time and time again. We have paid for our pass many times over and will be renewing this year.
The Cincinnati Zoo
Cincinnati has a gem with our zoo. It is truly a world-class zoo that offers fascinating and interactive exhibits for kids of all ages. Most any parent will tell you that a zoo pass is worth its weight in gold. I would agree wholeheartedly with that, with one exception. Wait until your little one is over 6 months old to invest in the pass.
There are some folks who disagree, but this was our experience. Sophie didn’t notice anything at the zoo until she almost 9 months old. At 9 months it was like an awakening happened. She was pointing out animals, taking in all the flowers and loved riding the train. You know your baby best and if you think they would enjoy it sooner, take them!! I know many parents visit because they personally enjoy the zoo and it offers a great change of scenery. Either way, a zoo pass is a way to go. Whether you by it at one-month-old or nine months old, little ones enjoy getting outside!
A beauty of zoo membership is that members get early entry in the spring and summer. The zoo at 9 a.m. is a completely different zoo than at 11 a.m. No, wait for the train, no pushing your way to the front of an exhibit to see a tail and no crowds of people to navigate a stroller through. Afternoons after 2 p.m. are another ideal time to go as the crowds begin to die down.
Try a Mommy and Me Class
From music programs to yoga, there are a variety of classes out there that you can explore with your little one. The good news is that most classes will let you come in and sample a class for free. That way you know if it is a good fit for you and baby. Naturally, Dad’s are welcome to these classes as well!
My favorite class ended up being Zumbini, which we promptly enrolled for. There is nothing to fear with the choreographed songs for this Zumba class. If you can act like a tiger and walk like a lizard, then you have mastered the hardest moves. We loved this particular class because it is so upbeat, involved a variety of different instruments, styles of music and dance. The instructor Dana Hill was so energetic and kind that she made each class memorable and enjoyable. I enrolled Sophie when she was about 8 months old, which was a good age because she could be interactive in class. Read more about our Zumbini experience! Check out their schedule here: https://www.zumbini.com
Zumbini might not be for you, but there are tons of other classes out there. Here is a list of twenty other classes available.
Please comment below with any other classes or programs that parents need to check out with their babies!
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